What to do in Winter? Embrace it in beautiful Lanesboro, MN!

by Adrienne Sweeney

Best weekend getaways in MN? You be the judge.

Winter View from My Porch

As you probably know, the Commonweal Theatre is located in the picturesque and historic town of Lanesboro, Minnesota, known around the region as one of the best weekend getaways in MN. I’m biased, sure, but I think this popularity is well deserved. Lanesboro boasts a dizzying array of natural beauty, outdoor summer and winter activities, and world-class art and culture. Even our local daily the Post Bulletin says “…yes, it really is that picturesque.”

Trust me, I am the first one to bask in the awesomeness of it all. Every year I can barely wait to hit the trails for my first run of the season, take the kayaks out of storage and get on the river and (my favorite pastime of all) get my hands dirty in the garden.

And yet….

I’ll admit it—I’m one of the oddballs that truly love Minnesota winter. I love all the seasons and don’t think I could live in a place without that cyclical seasonal shift. But winter offers something special for us go-go-go, hyperactive, Type-As. I don’t partake in typical winter activities—I’m not a skier, don’t skate or snowshoe. Nope, it’s the imposed “downtime” that makes winter so special to me. I’m one of those weirdos that like the shorter days and the bloody cold temps. I am so grateful for the chance to wear sweats and no makeup and huddle on the sofa with a fire, a blanket, Netflix and a varied assortment of furry friends. (My husband is also welcome as generally in winter he can be pretty furry, as well.) I love soup and bread and red wine and long phone calls with friends I usually can’t connect with during “the busy season.” I love going to bed early because it’s dark outside and my brain doesn’t know the difference between 8 pm and 11 pm. Don’t even get me started on bubble baths. And January and February offer the time for one of my favorite things to do during winter—organize! These past few months alone I’ve organized and re-organized almost every closet in my house, the mountains of paper on my desk, even the files on my computer desktop. I. Love. Organizing. 

This is how I feel when I am about to or have recently completed an                                                               organizational project.

I’m probably in the minority, I’ll cop to that. Don’t get me wrong, when the production season starts ramping up, I get so jazzed about what’s to come. The art, of course—but also I can’t wait to see our patrons again! I love opening the doors for a new season, and I am beyond excited to share the 30th season of the Commonweal Theatre with you. I am passionately excited about directing Silent Sky and can not wait to get into the rehearsal room. Performing in The Clean House is something I have looked forward to since the day I read the script, almost a decade ago. Soon, tourists and guests will start streaming in. (Lanesboro is consistently lauded as one of the top things to do in Rochester MN, Decorah, Winona, LaCrosse, the Twin Cities—and beyond!) And not a day goes by that I am not supremely thankful to live and work here. But tonight as I write this there’s a gentle snow falling, my dog is snoring beside me, soup is warming on the stove, I am in my sweats…and I am grateful for Minnesota winter. That said, check back with me in a few months. I’m sure I’ll have some great things to say about July!

See you soon.

From Page to Stage: A Live Theatre Rehearsal Process

Rehearsals are well underway for Salt-Water Moon, the 10th apprentice company capstone production in Lanesboro, MN. In this edition of Drama Unfolds, apprentice company member and production director Amanda Pyfferoen describes the rehearsal process from her early imaginings right up to opening night.

As apprentices at the Commonweal, we are given the rare opportunity to select our capstone production. This gives us the ability to look at the whole gamut of two-handers, and quite frankly that was a bit daunting. When we first began searching for scripts we brought passion projects to the table. For me, that was David Mamet’s Oleanna and while Megan and Patrick read it in phenomenal fashion, it was not the right fit for us. We realized that we needed a story that was relatable, had a strong message, and was going to challenge all of us. Suggestions came pouring in from company members and friends such as Talley’s FollySame Time, Next YearGreat FallsBlackbird, and Salt-Water Moon.

For me, I know I like a script when I can visualize it in my mind and see it from the beginning of rehearsals, through the technical rehearsals, to the end of the preview rehearsal process and all the way to opening night. That was the case within the first few pages of my reading Salt-Water Moon; even on the Commonweal’s stage to boot. This play is about love and family and how the duty to both of them is interconnected and impacts every aspect of who we are. There’s a ‘slice of life’ aspect to this play; audience members are bound to find Jacob and Mary relatable. I’m actually reminded of my maternal grandparents. My grandmother was engaged to another man when she met my grandfather. Grandpa returned home from being stationed in France and they met at a party, not long later she broke off her engagement and married my grandfather instead. It’s not exactly a direct a correlation to Jacob and Mary’s love triangle, but it gives the story a personal touch for me. The playwright, David French, has written a beautiful script where the words practically come flying off the page. The passion is in everything they say.

We’ve been in rehearsals for a few weeks now and I am extremely pleased with how it’s taking shape. The relationship between Jacob and Mary is strong, rooted in the past that plays into the present and, ultimately, their potential future. Trust has been a pivotal component of this process and one I believe has assisted us in reaching the raw, truthfulness coming across onstage. At the end of our rehearsals, we do a grounding question, a get-to-know-you question that has nothing to do with our production, as a way to become a cohesive and closer ensemble. These questions have run from places we want to visit to which member of the Beatles we think we are. I believe it’s been a good exercise and one I hope to continue as I move forward in my directing career. Opening night is just around the corner so forgive me as I scamper off to rehearsal.

I’m looking forward to sharing this story with our Commonweal family here in Lanesboro MN.

Salt-Water Moon opens Saturday, March 10 to help kick-off Season 30 at the Commonweal. You can get your tickets today by clicking right here.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre!

The Professional Theatre Makers of Tomorrow

The Commonweal Theatre currently has much to celebrate. The 2018 season is the company’s 30th and the current apprentice class…now company…is the 10th of its kind. Just think, approximately 40 young theatre artists committed to the Commonweal and enriched Lanesboro as a community on their way to becoming the next generation of theatre-makers. Where are some of those young artists now? Where are the current crop of artists going when they leave us in April? Well, we just happen to have answers to those questions.
Sarah Hawkins on stage

Sarah Hawkins on stage

Gary Danciu: Gary was a member of the 2010-11 Commonweal apprentice class and then remained in residence with the company through the 2016 season. Gary is now living and working as a freelance actor in Minneapolis and is currently in the cast of Hamlet with Wayward Theatre Co. The element of the Commonweal apprentice program that Gary appreciated the most were the “extensive performance opportunities onstage” and forging many great relationships that he continues to enjoy today.

Sarah Hawkins Moan: Sarah is a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN and came to the Commonweal apprentice program in 2008-09. Within a few years following her apprenticeship, Sarah went on to Masters Degree work in acting at Wright State University in Detroit. Sarah still calls Detroit home and is currently teaching theatre on the college level along with being a freelance actor and director. From her time at the Commonweal as an apprentice, she was able to “beef up” her non-profit resume while learning the unique challenges of operating a small, professional theatre company.

Tim Sailer

Tim Sailer: Tim was a part of the 2009-10 “boy band” apprentice company when the team was made up of all men! Tim has been a consistent member of the company of artists at The American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA. While being in residence with the Commonweal, Tim loved seeing how the theatre “becomes a touchstone for a community of people–both the locals and the tourists.” It made him realize “how important it is for smaller, rural communities to have regular access high-quality, professional art.”

Mike Swan: Mike spent 2013-14 as an apprentice and remained with the company as an ensemble member through the 2014 season. Mike is now a tour manager for the National Theatre for Children and freelances as an actor in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. The thing Mike values the most from his apprenticeship is the capstone project. At the end of their tenure, the group chooses a play to fully produce on their own which “caps” their time with the company. “Having the opportunity to produce a show of our choice from the ground up,” says Mike, “was very unique. That process was one of the most valuable and rewarding educational experiences I’ve ever had.”

Ana Hagedorn: Ana was in the 2012-13 apprentice class and stayed on with the company in residence through mid-season of 2015. Ana is an M.F.A. candidate at SMU in Dallas, TX, and is set to graduate this spring with that degree. The reason she chose to apply for the program is her belief that the best way to learn about acting is to have strong mentors and an artistic home where you are given support to do the work. “We learn acting by doing,” she said, “and being part of the Commonweal Theatre, I learned from a group of artists that supported me and allowed me to grow.”

Daniel Stock on stage

Daniel Stock on stage

Daniel Stock: Daniel came to the theatre as an apprentice in 2010-11. Upon completing his apprenticeship, Daniel joined the resident ensemble, ultimately becoming the box office manager and creating many memorable roles as an actor onstage…there’s no forgetting his King of Bohemia in Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure. Currently, Daniel is finishing up his graduate degree work from the University of Georgia with a residency at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. What made the program most valuable for Daniel: “getting to work on different skill sets such as dramaturgy, prop design, sound design, etc., in a safe and supported professional environment was also very rewarding.”

Where Are They Going?

Amanda Pyfferoen: Amanda is a current apprentice and is now in the director’s chair for Salt-Water Moon, the 2017-18 capstone. She is currently applying for internships with larger theatre companies to gain an even more intensive focus of study as a director.

Patrick Vaughn: Also a member of the current class, Patrick is one of two actors featured in Salt-Water Moon and will travel overseas for a six-week summer intensive workshop with the Moscow Art Theatre.

There ya have it! That’s just a handful of updated information but, rest assured, the influence of the Commonweal as a company and as a community spreads far and wide across the nation. And our commitment to the young theatre artists of the world remains as strong in its 10th year as it did in its first.
Tickets are now on sale for the 10th Apprentice Company Capstone Production Salt Water-Moon! Purchase yours today by clicking RIGHT HERE.
See you at the theatre…Jeremy.